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Each year, the Asbury Park Chamber of Commerce’s Carousel Awards Gala tells the continuing story of the city’s growth as a Jersey Shore hub of commerce, cuisine, and entertainment.

Held last Friday at the Asbury Park Convention Hall, the Carousel Awards recognized the contributions of committed leaders, inspirational nonprofits, and innovative businesses that make Asbury Park such a great place to live.

“There was so much energy and talent in Convention Hall throughout the gala,” said Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling [D-Neptune], who presented legislative proclamations to each of the honorees recognized. “A big part of Asbury’s resurgence is down to the dedication, ingenuity, and engagement of folks like these. Their efforts are bringing Asbury Park into an even brighter future, and we’re honored to support them from our place in the Assembly.”

“You can feel the momentum that’s moving this city forward at events like this,” said Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Freehold). “We’re grateful to each of the honorees for their outstanding contributions to Asbury’s success and especially proud of our 11th District colleague and the evening’s Public Service Award recipient, Senator Vin Gopal.”

Asbury Park Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sylvia Sylvia Cioffi met Gopal when he first ran for Senate in 2017 but rapidly came to know him well during his frequent visits to the city.

“He was in Asbury often, and always doing something to support our community,” Sylvia said. “The commitment he showed to our beautiful city from the start never wavered, and we’re incredibly proud of everything that he’s done as our representative. He truly defines what it means to be a public servant, and we couldn’t be prouder to present him this award.”

“I’m humbled by the Chamber’s recognition, and honored to have shared the stage with such talented honorees,” said Gopal [D-Long Branch]. “The others recognized deserve our wholehearted congratulations – their efforts have truly solidified Asbury Park’s reputation as the ‘Crown Jewel’ of the Jersey Shore.”

Tom Hayes, Director of Customer and Community Relations for the New Jersey Natural Gas, shared the Joan Flatley Spirit of Asbury Park Award with Townsquare Media, the creator of 94.3 The Point & NJ101.5.

“This is our sixth year of sponsoring weekend music broadcasts on the boardwalk to help promote all of our nonprofits and the city’s economic development,” said Hayes, who has worked with the city on economic development since the 1980s, including serving as Chamber president in the 1990s. “The DJs and people at Townsquare Media have been wonderful partners.”

Other honorees praised the Chamber for its support of city businesses.

“Since the day I came into town and opened my business in 2012, the Chamber has been amazing,” said Kimmee Masi, owner of Confections of a Rock$tar and recipient of the Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence. “My award is kinda cool, but giving back is what I do. It’s who I am.”

“We have had great success in engaging underserved youth with music education and bringing together the diverse populations with our events,” said Jim Lenskold, chairman of the Asbury Park Music Foundation, which received the Non Profit of the Year Award for its integral part in the Asbury community’s revival. “We are thankful to the many community members who help us make this possible.”

The Chamber recognized others for their contributions to Asbury Park’s commerce and music scenes, including Russell Lewis of Watermark, who received the Visionary Award; local pharmacy owner Vishal Sood; and Lynne Kirchdoerffer, who received the President’s Choice Award.

“I’m honored to have been deemed worthy of this award, and I hope to use it as motivation to continue my service for the community,” said Sood, the owner of Home Drugs Store and the evening’s recipient of the Kenneth T. Roth Landmark Business Award. “The Chamber, along with the City’s leadership, have been great allies for small independent owners like myself, promoting a progressive culture and allowing each of us to evolve along with the city’s revival. That’s rare in the current global economic landscape.”

Kirchdoerffer, whose efforts helped save the Stone Pony in the early 2000s, was an original founder of the Asbury Ushers, a group of volunteers whose efforts have helped build up Asbury Park’s live music scene at the Paramount Theatre and Convention Hall while supporting events as diverse as the Oysterfest and the Mayor’s Rodeo for Recreation.

“The Asbury Ushers are lawyers, doctors. teachers, journalists, nurses, construction guys, scientists and many more,” Kirchdoerffer said. “But most of all, they are beautiful people with a passion for Asbury Park and its music scene. They love introducing people to this wonderful, unique city and helping to ensure visitors have a great experience when attending events here.”

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